A Nation at the Crossroads: The Case of Ocampo against al-Bashir
Posted by Abdalbasit Saeed.
The truths, reflections, analysis or misjudgments and predispositions in this rejoinder are the sole responsibility of the author. They do not, however, examine the validity or justification of the initial ‘Civilization Mission’ slogan by the regime of the National Islamic Front (NIF) at its point of inception in June 1989. The discussion is rather concerned with the 1989/90 ‘New World Order’ which the NIF regime failed to comprehend at just the same historic moment, and which culminated in its own undoing 15 years later, after ten years of cumbersome negotiations on the basis of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) put forward by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in 1993/94 and adopted by the Government of the Sudan (GoS) in 1997. After five more years of slack foot-dragging on both sides, more serious negotiations picked-up in 2002 between the GoS and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The final output was the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that was signed on 9 January 2005.
Over recent years (2000-07) Sudan stands as top-rated among countries of the world, and African region, for the greatest number of Security Council Resolutions defining a member State of the UN family as a threat to international peace and security. The Sudan is among the first countries, since the beginning of the 21st century, to receive indictment under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, by the UN Security Council Resolutions. Sudan is the UN member state, during the first ten years of the 21st century, which had to sign the largest number of agreements aimed at protection of civilians and ending internal violent conflict, with its own citizens. Sudan is among the countries charged with highest rates of corruption. It is the only country whose top political leadership, ministers, military brass, and executives have been listed for possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
There are complex contradictions, beyond the perview of this rejoinder, that relate to international politics as well as others that are peculiar to political struggles among the governing elite in Sudan regarding Darfur. Together, they created a situation where the ICC’s Moreno Ocampo would attempt to indict the President of Sudan. The main question is: why all this happens?
For the majority of the “˜hard-core’ NIF Islamists, Ocampo is “˜just a pain in the neck’. For Southern Sudanese in the coalition GoNU, Ocampo “˜is just being too active at the periphery’. As for the Sudanese left, positions adopted in 2005 cannot be sustained now, when the 2009-elections are just around the corner. However, the answer for these anomalous situations, is that the Sudan under the NIF regime has been put on the list of states sponsors of terrorism. The country also witnessed the longest war in Africa of the 20th century. These two factors created friends for the NIF (extreme Islamic fundamentalists) and foes (the Western world and its allies). In order to rid itself of these symptoms, the Sudan must seek to reinstate itself as peace-loving country of the world community through adherence to democratic governance. It must, secondly, address the root-causes for multiple internal wars rather than treating the symptoms. It must take seriously, “the internal colonization thesis” and address internal injustices first.
In spite of all such derogatory connotations of genocidal activity in Darfur, pariah state and/or failed state, still the country seems to be holding together and is expected to enter into a real test of legitimate governance (in 2009) to elect the President, First Vice President, national legislature (450 MPs), 25 state governors, and 25 state legislatures (1000 representatives). Locality Governments (133), with undetermined number of delegates from administrative units (523) and village clusters, are not listed for election under the new electoral law (2008). In spite of the multiplicity of levels in the electoral process, one could say that the draft electoral law is a glossy document, an elitist one, the technical language of which could be comprehended with difficulty even for a population as educated as in Germany, Switzerland or in the Nordic countries. The illiteracy rate in Sudan is 66 percent. Therefore, the law is unjust for the masses. It is too complicated for them to discern where unfair-play in the elections could be apprehended. My point here is that the Sudanese people and Ocampo are not tuned to the same wave-length. I would want to see the international prosecutor giving consideration for: to what extent would the Sudanese people respect him for an indictment that would not directly end the war in Darfur or ensure the unity of Sudan at the point of the terminal referendum.
At the personal level, I am not a supporter of military dictators, and would never wish to see them ‘to be’. But given the choice, as a Sudanese nationalist, I do not ‘hate’ the President even if I disagree with the policies of the NIF/ingaz regime. I would not like to see the President ‘taken away’ by the ICC’s Moreno Ocampo.
At the same time I think the ICC’s involvement in Sudan may not be read only from a legalistic perspective. It has a lot of politics to it; local, regional and international. Thus if the ICC prosecutor attempts to indict Sudan’s President, Moreno Ocampo would just be over-extending the area of coverage of international intervention, he would also be juggling with too many variables that could prove too difficult to control or manage. So far, his success at prosecuting Ahmed Haroun and Kushayb has been very limited. He is rather, at the verge of failure. Therefore, he does not need to enter another dimension of Sudan’s quagmire where he could be left out without the scanty international support he is currently fishing for, with little ‘catch’ anyway.
The view here in Sudan is that the ICC and the Prosecutor would not be allowed, by the Sudanese people, to indict the Sudanese President and take him to The Hague. The Sudanese people want him to stay for the 2009 elections in order to face voting-out by natural political selection of the next national government. Another strong reason is that he is the safety valve for the western powers for ensuring that the CPA will be implemented. The western powers, Moreno Ocampo should know, are also interested in the successful implementation of the CPA, more than their interest in Omer Bashir himself. But if the President ‘goes’ to the ICC he would nonetheless leave behind a vicious war between ‘NIF’ supporters and opponents of ‘the Civilization Mission of the Islamists’ that predated the CPA. There is no international leadership to launch an Iraq-type of invasion. The US, or any other power, would not be sufficiently motivated to launch another war in Africa.
For example, to show the extent to which the US is interested in prolonging Bashir’s regime, just note that Salva Kiir visited the US in mid-November 2007 with a senior SPLM delegation. He was encouraged by President George W. Bush to find a solution that would avoid war. Less than four weeks later, on 12 December, the SPLM announced that a negotiated agreement had been reached on all main issues, except Abyei, and its estranged ministers returned to Government of National Unity cabinet.
If the West does take al-Bashir to the ICC, there would be no “˜free’-and-fair elections in 2009; there would be no DPA, ESPA or even the CPA. There would be “˜war’ everywhere. There would not be a lee-way for the West to be assured of an independent Southern Sudan, which would separate as a result of the 2011 referendum. All the Sudanese people, including the South, would fight to protect the President; not only because al-Bashir’s incumbency guarantees for the South a strong supporter for Salva Kiir’s bid to implement the CPA, including the 2011 terminal referendum for self-determination for the South, but also because no Sudanese would wish to see a replay of the manner in which the Mahdist Head of State (Khalifa Abdullahi) was slaughtered by the British forces at the close of the 19th century.
The Sudanese opposition has been patient for the two decades al-Bashir has been in power. The opposition would want to see al-Bashir’s defeat through the ballot-box, if fair elections are administered. Why, then, would Ocampo want to disallow a long awaited moment of history for a peaceful transfer of power in 2009? Why would Ocampo want to commit a political blunder, by making a bid for indictment of al-Bashir? If Ocampo does that, then he would pre-empt what the Southerners do see as a victory to both “˜have’ the CPA and “˜eat it too’ in a successful terminal referendum that would lead to independence of Southern Sudan.